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Of the ministering to the Restitution and Pardon, or Reconciliation of the Sick Person, by Administering the Holy Sacrament.
‘If any man be overtaken in a fault ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness,'162162Gal. vi. 1. that is the commission: and, ‘Let the elders of the church pray over the sick man; and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him;'163163James, v. 14, 15. that is the effect of his power and his ministry. But concerning this some few things are to be considered.
1. It is the office of the presbyters and ministers of religion to declare public criminals and scandalous persons to be such, that, when the leprosy is declared, the flock may avoid the infection; and then the man is excommunicate, when the people are warned to avoid the danger of the man or the reproach of the crime, to withdraw from his society, and not to bid him God speed, not to eat and celebrate syntaxes and church-meetings with such who are declared criminal and dangerous. And therefore excommunication is, in a very great part, the act of the congregation and communities of the faithful: and St. Paul said to the church of the Corinthians,1641641 Cor v. 5, 12, 13; 2 Cor. ii. 6. that they had inflicted the evil upon the incestuous person, that is, by excommunicating him: all the acts of which are, as they are subjected in the people, acts of caution and liberty; but no more acts of direct proper power or jurisdiction than it was when the scholars of Simon Magus left his chair and went to hear St. Peter; but as they are actions of the rulers of the church, so they are declarative, ministerial, and effective too by moral causality; that is, by persuasion and discourse, by argument and prayer, by homily and material representment, by reasonableness of order and the superinduced necessities of men; though not by any real change of state as to the person, nor by diminution of his right, or violence to his condition.
2. He that baptizes, and he that ministers the holy sacrament, and he that prays, does holy offices of great advantage; but in these also, just as in the former, he exercises no jurisdiction or pre-eminence after the manner of secular authority;165165Homines in remissione peccatorum ministerium suum exhibent, non just alicujus potestatis exercent: Neque enim in suo, sed in nomine Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, peccata dimittuntur: Isti rogant, Divinitas donat.—St. Amb. de Spir. 8. 1. iii. c. 10. and the same is also true if he should deny them. He that refuseth to baptize an indisposed person hath, by the consent of all men, no power or jurisdiction over the unbaptized man; and he that, for the like reason, refuseth to give him the communion, preserves the sacredness of the mysteries, and does charity to the undisposed man, to deny that to him which will do him mischief: and this is an act of separation, just as it is for a friend or physician to deny water to an hydropic person, or Italian wines to a hectic fever, or as if Cato should deny to salute Bibulus, or the censor of manners to do countenance to a wanton and a vicious person. And though this thing was expressed by words of power, such as separation, abstention, excommunication, deposition; yet these words we understand by the thing itself, which was notorious and evident to be matter of prudence, security, and a free, unconstrained discipline; and they passed into power by consent and voluntary submission, having the same effect of constraint, fear, and authority, which we see in secular jurisdiction: not because ecclesiastical discipline hath a natural proper coercion as lay tribunals have, but because men have submitted to it, and are bound to do so upon the interest of two or three Christian graces.
In pursuance of this caution and provision, the church superinduced times and manners of abstention, and expressions of sorrow, and canonical punishments, which they tied the delinquent people to suffer before they would admit them to the holy table of the Lord. For the criminal having obliged himself by his sin, and the church having declared it, when she should take notice of it, be is bound to repent, to make him capable of pardon with God; and to prove that he is penitent he is to do such actions which the church, in the virtue and pursuance of repentance, shall accept as a testimony of it sufficient to inform her; for as she could not bind at all (in this sense) till the crime was public, though the man had bound himself in secret; so neither can she set him free till the repentance be as public as the sin, or so as she can note it and approve it. Though the man be free, as to God, by his internal act, yet, as the publication of the sin was accidental to it, and the church-censure consequent to it, so is the publication of repentance and consequent absolution extrinsieal to the pardon, but accidentally and in the present circumstances necessary. This was the same that the Jews did, (though in other instances and expressions,) and do to this day to their prevaricating people; and the Essences in their assemblies, and private colleges of scholars, and public universities. For all these being assemblies of voluntary persons, and such as seek for advantage, are bound to make an artificial authority in their superiors, and so to secure order and government by their own obedience and voluntary subordination in the superior; and the band of it is not any coercitive power, but the deny to communicate such benefits which they seek in that communion and fellowship.
4. These, I say, were introduced in the special manners and instances by positive authority, and have not a divine authority commanding them; but there is a divine power that verifies them and makes these separations effectual and formidable; for because they are declarative and ministerial in the spiritual man, and suppose a delinquency and demerit in the other, and a sin against God, our blessed Saviour hath declared that ‘what they bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;' that is in plain signification, the same sins and sinners which the clergy condemn in the face of their assemblies, the same are condemned in heaven before the face of God, and for the same reason too. God's law hath sentenced it, and these are the preachers and publishers of his law by which they stand condemned; and these laws are they that condemn the sin or acquit the penitent there and here; whatsoever they bind here shall be bound there, that is, the sentence of God at the day of judgment shall sentence the same men166166Summum futuri judieli praejudicium est, si quis ita deliquert ut a communicatione orationis et conventus et oranis sancti commercii relegetur.—Tertul. Apol cap. 39. Atque hoc idem innuitur per summam Apostoli censuram in reos maxini criminis: sit αναφερα νσραναφα, id est, excommunicatus majori Excommunicatione; Dominus veniet, scil. ad jusicandum eum: ad quod judicium haec censura Ecclesiae est relativa et in ordine. Tum demum paenas dabit: ad quas, nise resipiscat, hic consignatur. whom the church does rightly sentence here. It is spoken in the future, it shall be bound in heaven; not but that the sinner is first bound there or first absolved there; but because all binding and loosing in the interval is imperfect and relative to the day of judgment, the day of the great sentence, therefore it is set down in the time to come; and says this only, the clergy are tied by the word and laws of God to condemn such sins and sinners; and that you may not think it ineffective, because after such sentence the man lives and grows rich, or remains in health and power, therefore be sure it shall be verified in the day of judgment. This is hugely agreeable with the words of our Lord and certain in reason; for that the minister does nothing to the final alteration of the state of the man's soul by way of sentence, is demonstratively certain, because he cannot bind a man but such as hath bound himself and who is bound in heaven by his sin before his sentence in the church; as also because the binding of the church is merely accidental and upon publication only; and when the man repents he is absolved before God, before the sentence of the church, upon his contrition and dereliction only; and if he were not the church could not absolve him. The consequent of which evident truth is this, that, whatsoever impositions the church-officers impose upon the criminal, they are to avoid scandal, to testify repentance and to exercise it, to instruct the people, to make them fear, to represent the act of God and the secret and the true state of the sinner: and although they are not essentially necessary to our pardon, yet they are become necessary when the church hath seized upon the sinner by public notice of the crime; necessary (I say) for the removing the scandal and giving testimony of our contrition, and for the receiving all that comfort which he needs and can derive from the promises of pardon as they are published by him that is commanded to preach them to all them that repent. And therefore, although it cannot be necessary as to the obtaining pardon that the priest should in private absolve a sick man from his private sins, and there is no loosing where there was no precedent binding, and he that was only bound before God, can before him only be loosed - yet as to confess sins to any Christian in private may have many good ends, and to confess them to a clergyman may have many more, so to hear God's sentence at the mouth of the minister, pardon pronounced by God's ambassador, is of huge comfort to them that cannot otherwise be comforted, and whose infirmity needs it; and therefore it were very fit it were not neglected in the days of our fear and danger, of our infirmities and sorrow.
5. The execution of this ministry being an act of prudence and charity, and therefore relative to changing circumstances, it hath been, and in many cases may, and in some must, be rescinded and altered. The time of separation may be lengthened and shortened, the condition made lighter or heavier, and for the same offence the clergyman is deposed, but yet admitted to the communion for which one of the people who hath no office to lose is denied the benefit of communicating; and this sometimes when he might lawfully receive it: and a private man is separate when a multitude or a prince is not, cannot, ought not; and at last, when the case of sickness and danger of death did occur, they admitted all men that desired it; sometimes without scruple or difficulty, sometimes with some little restraint in great or insolent cases, (as in the case of apostasy, in which the council of Arles denied absolution unless they received and gave public satisfaction by acts of repentance; and some other councils denied at any time to do it to such persons,) according as seemed fitting to the present necessities of the church. All which particulars declare it to be no part of a divine commandment that any man should be denied to receive the communion if he desires it, and if he be in any probable capacity of receiving it.
6. Since the separation was an act of liberty and a direct negative, it follows that the restitution was a mere doing that which they refused formerly, and to give the holy communion was the formality of absolution, and all the instrument and the whole matter of reconcilement; the taking off the punishment is the pardoning of the sin; for this without the other is but a word; and if this be done, I care not whether any thing is said or no Vinum Dominicum ministratoris gratia est is also true in this sense; to give the chalice and cup is the grace and indulgence of the minister; and when that is done, the man hath obtained the peace of the church; and to do that is all the absolution the church can give. And they were vain disputes which were commenced some few ages since, concerning the forms of absolution, whether they were indicative or optative, by way of declaration or by way of sentence, for at first they had no forms at all, but they said a prayer, and, after the manner of the Jews, laid hands upon the penitent when they prayed over him, and so admitted him to the holy communion; for since the church had no power over her children but of excommunicating and denying them to attend upon holy offices and ministries respectively, neither could they have any absolution but to admit them thither from whence formerly they were forbidden; whatsoever ceremony or forms did signify, this was superinduced and arbitrary, alterable and accidental; it had variety but no necessity.
7. The practice consequent to this is, that if the penitent be bound by the positive censures of the church, he is to be reconciled upon those conditions which the laws of the church tie him to in case he can perform them: if he cannot, he can no longer be prejudiced by the censure of the church,167167Caus. 26. Q. 6 et q. 7. which had no relation but the people, with whom the dying man is no longer to converse: for whatsoever relates to God is to be transacted in spiritual ways by contrition and internal graces; and the mercy of the church is such as to give him her peace and her blessing upon his undertaking to obey her injunctions, if he shall be able: which injunctions, if they be declared by public sentence, the minister hath nothing to do in the affairs but to remind him of his obligation and reconcile him, that is, give him the holy sacrament.
8. If the penitent be not bound by public sentence, the minister is to make his repentance as great, and his heart as contrite, as he can; to dispose him by the repetition of acts of grace in the way of prayer, and in real and exterior instances where he can; and then to give him the holy communion in all the same cases in which he ought not to have denied it to him in his health; that is, even in the beginnings of such a repentance which by human signs he believes to be real and holy; and after this the event must be left to God. The reason of the rule depends upon this, because there is no divine commandment directly forbidding the rulers of the church to give the communion to any Christian that desires it and professes repentance of his sins. And all church-discipline in every instance, and to every single person, was imposed upon him by men who did it according to the necessities of this state and constitution of our affairs below: but we, who are but ministers and delegates of pardon and condemnation, must resign and give up our judgment when the man is no more to be judged by the sentences of man, and by the proportions of this world, but of the other: to which, if our reconciliation does advantage, we ought in charity to send him forth with all the advantages he can receive; for he will need them all. And therefore the Niceen council commands168168Can. 13. Vide etiam Con. Ancyr. cap. 6. Aurel. 2 cap. 12. that no man be deprived of this necessary passport in the article of his death, and calls this the ancient and canonical law of the church; and to minister it only supposes the man in the communion of the church, not always in the state, but ever in the possibilities, of sanctification. They who in the article and danger of death were admitted to the communion, and tied to penance if they recovered, (which was ever the custom of the ancient church, unless in very few cases,) were but in the threshold of repentance in the commencement and first introductions to a devout life; and, indeed, then it is a fit ministry that it be given in all the periods of time in which the pardons of sins is working, since it is the sacrament of that great mystery, and the exhibition of that blood which is shed for the remission of sins.
9. The minister of religion ought not to give the communion to a sick person if he retains the affection to any sin, and refuses to disavow it, or profess repentance of all sins whatsoever, if he be required to do it. The reason is, because it is a certain death to him, and an increase of his misery, if he shall so profane the body and blood of Christ as to take it into so unholy a breast, where Satan reigns, and sin is principal, and the Spirit is extinguished, and Christ loves not to enter, because he is not suffered to inhabit. But when he professes repentance,169169Saevi quoque et implacabiles domini crudelitatem suam impediunt, si, quando paenitentia fugitivos reduxit, dedititiis hostibus parcinaus. and does such acts of it as his present condition permits, he is to be presumed to intend heartily what he professes solemnly; and the minister is only the judge of outward act, and by that only he is to take information concerning the inward. But whether he be so or no, or if he be, whether that be timely, and effectual, and sufficient toward the pardon of sins before God, is another consideration of which we may conjecture here, but we shall know it at dooms-day. The spiritual man is to do his ministry by the rules of Christ, and as the customs of the church appoint him, and after the manner of men: the event is in the hands of God, and is to be expected, not directly and wholly according to his ministry, but to the former life, or the timely internal repentance and amendment, of which I have already given accounts. These ministries are acts of order and great assistances, but the sum of affairs does not rely upon them. And if any man puts his whole repentance upon this time, or all his hopes upon these ministries, he will find them and himself to fail.
10. It is the minister's office to invite sick and dying persons to the holy sacrament; such whose lives were fair and laudable, and yet their sickness sad and violent, making them listless and of slow desires, and slower apprehensions; that such persons who are in the state of grace may lose no accidental advantages of spiritual improvement, but may receive into their dying bodies the symbols and great consignations of the resurrection, and into their souls the pledges of immortality, and may appear before God their father in the union and with the impresses and likeness of their elder brother. But if the persons be of ill report, and have lived wickedly, they are not to be invited; because their case is hugely suspicious, though they then repent and call for mercy: but if they demand it, they are not to be denied; only let the minister in general represent the evil consequence of an unworthy participation; and if the penitent will judge himself unworthy, let him stand candidate for pardon at the hands of God, and stand or fall by that unerring and merciful sentence, to which his severity of condemning himself before men will make the easier and more hopeful address. And the strictest among the Christians who denied to reconcile lapsed persons after baptism, yet acknowledged that there were hopes reserved in the court of heaven for them, though not here; since we, who are easily deceived by the pretenses of a real return, are tied to dispense God's graces, as he hath given us commission, with fear and trembling, and without too forward confidences; and God hath mercies which we know not of; and therefore, because we know them not, such persons were referred to God's tribunal, where he would find them if they were to be had at all.
11. When the holy sacrament is to be administered, let the exhortation be made proper to the mystery, but fitted to the man; that is, that it be used for the advantages of faith, or love, or contrition: let all the circumstances and parts of the divine love be represented, all the mysterious advantages of the blessed sacrament be declared, that it is the bread which came from heaven; that it is the representation of Christ's death to all the purposes and capacities of faith, and the real exhibition of Christ's body and blood to all the purposes of the Spirit; that it is the earnest of the resurrection, and the seed of a glorious immortality; that as by our cognation to the body of the first Adam we took in death, so, by our union with the body of the second Adam, we shall have the inheritance of life; (for as by Adam came death, so by Christ cometh the resurrection of the dead;1701701 Cor. xv. 22.) that if we, being worthy communicants of these sacred pledges, being presented to God with Christ within us, our being accepted of God is certain, even for the sake of his well-beloved that dwells within us; that this is the sacrament of that body which was broken for our sins, of that blood which purifies our souls, by which we are presented to God pure and holy in the beloved; that now we may ascertain our hopes and make our faith confident; ‘for he that hath given us his Son, how should not he with him give us all things else?'171171Rom. viii. 32. Upon these or the like considerations the sick man may be assisted in his address, and his faith strengthened, and his hope confirmed, and his charity be enlarged.
12. The manner of the sick man's reception of the holy sacrament hath in it nothing differing from the ordinary solemnities of the sacrament,172172Vide Rule of Holy Loving, chap. iv. sect. 10; and Hist. of the Life of Jesus, part iii. Disc. 18. save only that abatement is to be made of such accidental circumstances as by the laws and customs of the church healthful persons are obliged to, such as fasting, kneeling, etc. Though I remember that it was noted for great devotion in the legate that died at Trent, that he caused himself to be sustained upon his knees when he received the viaticum, or the holy sacrament, before, his death; and it was greater in Huniades that he caused himself to be carried to the church, that there he might receive his Lord in his Lord's house; and it was recorded for honour, that William, the pious archbishop of Bourges, a small time before his last agony, sprang out of his bed at the presence of the holy sacrament, and, upon his knees and his face, recommended his soul to his Saviour. But in these things no man is to be prejudiced or censured.
13. Let not the holy sacrament be administered to dying persons, when they have no use of reason to make that duty acceptable, and the mysteries effective to the purposes of the soul. For the sacraments and ceremonies of the gospel operate not without the concurrent actions and moral influences of the suscipient. To infuse the chalice into the cold lips of the clinic may disturb his agony, but cannot relieve the soul which only receives improvement by acts of grace and choice, to which the external rites are apt and appointed to minister in a capable person. All other persons, as fools, children, distracted persons, lethargical, apoplectical, or any ways senseless and incapable of human and reasonable acts, are to be assisted only by prayers; for they may prevail even for the absent, and for enemies, and for all those who join not in the office.
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